By Peter Usman/:
The Federal Government has approved 12 additional hospitals for chemotherapy in the ongoing Cancer Access Partnership Programme at over 50 percent cost reduction.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this in a statement he issued on Thursday in Abuja to mark the World Cancer Day, annually marked on February 4 to raise awareness on cancer and to encourage its prevention, early detection and treatment.
Ehanire said that the Federal Ministry of Health under his watch had continued to improve access to cancer care services, especially in diagnosis, chemotherapy and radiotherapy services.
He said, “Chemotherapy is an aggressive form of chemical drug therapy meant to destroy rapidly growing cells in the body. It’s usually used to treat cancer, as cancer cells grow and divide faster than other cells.
“Radiotherapy, also another way of treating cancer, is where radiation is used to kill cancer cells. It may be used in the early stages of cancer.
The Minister stated that “we are currently improving services in some hospitals across the country, with the installation of radiotherapy machines already in advanced stages in UNTH Enugu, UBTH Benin, UDUTH Sokoto, UCH Ibadan and ABUTH Zaria.
“These would have been completed, but for the hitches caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I also approved the inclusion of 12 additional hospitals in the ongoing Cancer Access Partnership, CAP Programme; this will increase the number of hospitals offering this service from seven as at the 2020 World Cancer Day to 18 as at today.
“The initial seven hospitals offering the service were National Hospital Abuja, ABUTH Zaria, AKTH Kano, OAUTHC Ile-Ife, UCH Ibadan, LUTH Lagos and UNTH Enugu.
“The additional hospitals are FTH Gombe, UPTH Port Harcourt, UBTH Benin, UITH Ilorin, UCTH Calabar, AEFUTHA Abakaliki, JUTHJos, UDUTH Sokoto, FMC Birnin Kebbi, NAUTH Nnewi, ABUTH Bauchi and Kalgo Medical Centre in Kebbi.
“The CAP programme also improved from nine molecules from one manufacturer to 20 products in 29 formulations from three manufacturers.’’
According to him, the Federal Ministry of Health successfully developed a National Chemotherapy Safety (ChemoSafe) policy in 2020, which will be launched soon.
He said “We also developed a National Hospice and Palliative Care Policy to address the Palliative Care Need of cancer patients and other patients that may need the services. This policy will also be launched this year.’’
The Minister noted that government established the Cancer Health Management Fund in 2020 to demonstrate its commitment to improving access to cancer care services.
He added that government had already developed indigent patients’ selection criteria to ensure that only those who needed the fund benefit from it.
“This is meant to complement other patients assisted programmes like the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS and the CAP programme.
“We are currently working out modalities to ensure that almost all cancer care services are covered by NHIS.’’ The Minister said.
Ehanire urged stakeholders in the Cancer Ecosystem to join hands with the ministry to take the war against cancer to the next level.
Globally, he said, there was continuous rise in the incidence of cancers, especially in low- and middle-income countries, including Nigeria.
He said “according to available statistics from our Cancer Registries, the Age Standardised incidence Rate, ASR in males started rising at age 35-39 years and peaked by 70 – 74 years, while the rise in females startedat age 25-29 years and peaked at 65-69 years between 2009 and now.
“We have also started seeing increased incidence of childhood cancers, especially haematological cancers in our facilities.”
According to him, the theme of the 2021 World Cancer Day “I AM and I WILL” is still the theme that has been reflected on for 2019 and 2020.
He explained that the ministry had commenced full implementation of the “screen, see and treat” programme of the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, CHAI.
“The objective of this programme is to embark on massive awareness, free screening and treatment of precancerous lesions of 430,000 women in three pilot states of Kaduna, Lagos and Rivers.
“And in 2020, over 1000 Health Care Workers (doctors, nurses, Lab scientists, CHEWS and data collectors) in the three states and the Federal Capital Territory were trained and over one thousand women screened in the course of hands-on training of the health professionals.’’
In addition, he said, the ministry had intensified efforts to ensure wider accessibility and availability of Human Papilloma Virus vaccine through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA within this year 2021.
“This will target our young girls and boys (9-13 years of age) to eliminate Human Papilloma Virus, HPV which is known to be responsible for over 70 percent of cervical cancer cases” he said.